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A Business Perspective

Ray's Small BizBuzz November, 2009

 

We’re all committed to working smarter these days. We’re busy cutting expenses, trimming the fat and streamlining processes whenever possible. But there’s one wasteful habit we’re loathe to give up. Many of us still want to sell to “everyone.”

These days, most entrepreneurs are thrilled to sell their wares to anyone who wants to buy them, and that’s fine. However, when you try to include “everyone” in your marketing message, you may actually end up reaching no one.  

When you broaden your message too much, you risk watering it down to the point where it no longer resonates with your best prospects. That’s symptomatic of a lack of focus—a dangerous flaw to have, especially now.

Furthermore, small businesses simply don’t have the time, resources or staff to chase every demographic. The reality is you can’t sell to everyone. Nor should you want to.

Yet many companies continue to take a scattershot approach to marketing and sales, thinking they’re more likely to score a hit. The truth is, if you want to hit the bull’s-eye, aim with a rifle, never a shotgun.

How do you do this? Start by determining who your best customer is by reviewing your current customer base. Identify your “A” list customers, along with what makes them valuable. Describe them in as much detail as possible. What common attributes do they share? Is it age, gender or annual income?

If you are a B-to-B operation, you can use the same kind of process. Do you value large firms or small ones? Or companies in certain industries or areas? Keep thinking until you arrive with a detailed description of your target B-to-B prospect.

Next question: What draws them to your products or services? What needs do you fill? How do you fill them better than your competition and how can you improve?

By the time you complete this exercise, you should not only know what your target market is, but what message you should be marketing to that market.

The same philosophy applies to customer service. Are you exhausting your staff in an effort to provide exceptional service to all customers? That may be admirable, but it’s not very wise. Resources are limited, especially these days, and frankly, not all customers deserve it.

So figure out who is worthy of your best service. Start by classifying your customers in groups from “A” to “F” based on criteria that matters most to you. Is it a customer’s sales potential, profitability or payment history? Is it the ease of doing business with them?

Once you’ve classified your customers, analyze what level of service you’re providing to each of them. Logically, you should be reserving your very best service to your “A” list customers, but don’t be surprised to find you’re providing best service to your worst customers. Often, the demanding, difficult accounts are the ones you spend the most energy trying to please.

There is both a direct and indirect cost to servicing a customer. Delinquent accounts, demanding accounts and unprofitable accounts all represent lost opportunity. And while no one wants to lose a customer right now, can you really afford to let an “F” list customer put a drain on your organization?  

And if you recognize that you’ve been taking some quiet “A” list customers for granted, maybe it’s time to shower them with more attention.

Targeting customers is yet one more way you can cut, trim and streamline your business. It will save you money, time and aggravation, but best of all, it will also position you for future growth.


 

 

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